Articles Posted in Immunity

In a recent decision, Mathis v. Sacred Heart Health Sys., Inc., Florida’s First District Court of Appeal reminded the lower courts that there are indeed limits to workers’ compensation immunity. Indeed, in a brief decision, the First District reversed a trial court order granting summary judgment in favor of a building owner that argued it was entitled to workers’ compensation immunity for injuries sustained by an employee of a cleaning company that had been contracted to provide cleaning services at the building.

The injuries at issue in this case occurred at Nemours Children’s Clinic, which is owned by Sacred Heart Health Systems, Inc. The injured employee worked for Coverall Service Company, which, pursuant to a contract with Sacred Heart, provided cleaning services at Nemours. While cleaning, the employee slipped and fell as a result of alleged negligence on the part of Sacred Heart in maintaining the property in a safe condition. After collecting workers’ compensation benefits, the employee brought a premises liability action against Sacred Heart. Following discovery, Sacred Heart moved for summary judgment, arguing that they were entitled to immunity pursuant to Section 440.11(1) of Florida’s workers’ compensation law. The trial court agreed and granted the defendant’s motion. The employee then brought the current appeal.

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It goes without saying that Chapter 776 of the Florida Statutes, more commonly known as Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law, has recently been the subject of heated discussion. Although commentators across the nation have extensively delved into the substance of the law and proffered opinions on Chapter 776’s merits and detriments, few have looked at the law’s implications outside of the criminal setting.

Recently, however, the Third District Court of Appeals assessed the importance of Stand Your Ground Law in the civil setting. In Professional Roofing and Sales, Inc. v. Flemmings, the Third District Court of Appeals determined whether the immunity granted pursuant to Chapter 776 in a previous criminal case definitively foreclosed liability in subsequent personal injury litigation.

Mr. Flemmings, the plaintiff in this action, brought the suit at issue against his former coworker and employer for an incident dating back to the winter of 2008. In 2008, Mr. Flemmings was beaten with a baseball bat by a coworker who was later arrested and charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon. In the criminal case, the coworker argued that the battery was a justifiable use of force pursuant to Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law and brought a motion to dismiss the charges. After conducting an evidentiary hearing, the criminal court granted the motion. Prior to final disposition in the criminal case, Flemmings filed a personal injury suit against the coworker and his employer. Following the criminal court’s determination, the defendants moved to have the civil case dismissed, arguing that the criminal court’s determination barred civil liability. The trial court denied the motion and stated that the issue was more appropriately handled at the summary judgment phase. The defendants sought immediate review of the decision.

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